Sask. government pledges $15M to VIDO-InterVac if feds also commit money for research facility

VIDO-InterVac is working to secure funds for a new Level 4 containment laboratory, which would allow researchers there to work with some of the most serious and deadly human and animal diseases.

VIDO-InterVac is working to secure funds for a new Level 4 containment laboratory

Researchers work on a COVID-19 vaccine at Saskatoon’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) lab. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

The government of Saskatchewan says it will put up $15 million to fund VIDO-InterVac's pandemic research if the federal government commits to contributing funding.

The province made the announcement on Tuesday. It said VIDO-InterVac — the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre — at the University of Saskatchewan is doing world-class research and is now working to secure funding for a Level 4 containment laboratory. 

Being a Level 4 facility would allow researchers to work with some of the most serious and deadly human and animal diseases. The province said the only other Level 4 facility in Canada is the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. 

"Canada should be one of those vaccine producing nations and Canada should be a world leader in not only research, but also the development and production of new vaccines," Premier Scott Moe said at a news conference Tuesday. "And that should happen right here in Saskatchewan."

Moe said production of various vaccines could begin at the new facility in 2022, with the ability to produce up to 40 million a year. 

The funding is contingent on the federal government committing funds to the facility, the province said. VIDO has already received a commitment of $250,000 from the City of Saskatoon and "significant contributions" from several private donors, the province said. VIDO is requesting $45 million in federal government support and ongoing operating funding for this project.

A spokesperson for federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne said he is aware of the proposal and following VIDO-InterVac's progress closely. 

"We are proud that the University of Saskatchewan's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization–International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) was one of the first projects supported by our government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," the spokesperson said. 

The spokesperson said the federal government has already given contributions of $46 million to help strengthen VIDO-InterVac's research and construction of a pilot-scale manufacturing facility. It said it welcomed the support from the province.

VIDO-InterVac director Dr. Volker Gerdts said the research will help people, but also livestock. 

"This facility will focus both on human diseases as well as animal diseases, and thus have a huge impact on our lives and that of our animals. It will help us to prepare and be better prepared for future emerging diseases," Gerdts said Tuesday. 


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